Q: I have smoked since my senior year in college 44 years ago. Even though I am in good health my physician is really encouraging me to quit. I tend to smoke more when under stress so it makes me nervous to think about not being able to have that cigarette. Will it really make that much of a difference to quit after all these years?
A: It’s never too late to stop smoking. According to the American Lung Association smoking reduces the normal life expectancy by an average of 13 to 15 years. Once a person quits it not only adds years to their life but it significantly improves the quality of life. This alone should motivate you to give up the habit.
Currently around 9 percent of Americans age 65 or older smoke. Every year approximately 480,000 people in the U.S. die from smoking, this is the leading cause of preventable death. Unless someone is in total denial they know smoking is not good for them. The culture of smoking has changed dramatically over the last couple of decades, smoking is now banned in most restaurants, government buildings, and many public venues. In some states smoking is against the law while driving if a young child is in the car. Pressure comes from multiple sources to encourage smokers to conquer the nicotine habit.
Quitting has benefits at any age, some of the improvements are immediate. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists the following incentives:
20 minutes after quitting your heart rate drops.
12 hours after quitting carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.
2 weeks to 3 months after quitting your heart attack risk begins to drop, and your lung function begins to improve.
1 to 9 months after quitting your coughing and shortness of breath decrease.
1 year after quitting your added risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker’s.